In Search of Glory: Bonaparte’s Bulletins

In this passage, Bonaparte’s secretary describes the importance and effect of Bonaparte’s propaganda in the form of the military bulletin from an army in the field. Glory and military virtue were emphasized; generals vied to be included.


Our bulletins may form curious materials for history but their value certainly will not depend on the credit due to their details. Bonaparte attached the greatest importance to those documents, generally drawing them up himself, or correcting them, when written by another hand, if the composition did not please him.

It must be confessed that at that time nothing so much flattered self-love as being mentioned in a bulletin. Bonaparte was well aware of this; he knew that to insert a name in a bulletin was conferring a great honour, and that its exclusion was a severe disappointment. General Berthier, to whom I had expressed a strong desire to examine the works of the seige, took me over them; but, notwithstanding his promise of secrecy, he mentioned the circumstance to the General-in-Chief, who had desired me not to approach the works. “What did you go there for?” said Bonaparte to me, with some severity; “that is not your place.” I replied that Berthier told me that no assault would take place that day; and he believed there would be no sortie, as the garrison had made one the preceding evening. “What matters that? There might have been another. Those who have nothing to do in such places are always the first victims. Let every man mind his own business. Wounded or killed, I would not even have noticed you in the bulletin. You would have been laughed at, and that justly.”

Source: Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte by Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne edited by R.W. Phipps. Vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1889) p. 206-207.